A common misconception about animals in shelters is that they are, somehow, damaged goods.
Nothing makes me angrier than when I encounter people who buy puppies from breeders because, they explain righteously, they want to be sure that the dog they are getting is going to be a "well-behaved" one. For those who want puppies, shelters almost always have many, many puppies up for adoption. And whether the dog is well-behaved will, in the end, depend entirely on how well you train him or her.
Then there's this completely false notion that dogs from shelters are "bad." I have no idea what a bad dog is, because dogs don't think in terms of good and bad the way humans do and usually only respond to instinct. Like a wise person once said, there are no bad dogs, only bad dog-parents. And contrary to what's widely believed, it is never too late to train a dog: in other words, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
Some people also wonder if a dog might have memories, good or bad, about their previous families and lives. You know, they wonder if past abuse would make a dog behave a certain way, or if they had a loving home, would they miss that home so much that they'd never adapt to a new home and family. Nothing could be farther from fact: dogs and cats respond to love and care instantly, and form a strong bond with their new family from the moment they walk into a home. We don't know- we'll never know- how far they miss their old lives. Maybe they do. But they, at least, don't appear to see that as any reason why they cannot love their new families as much if not more.
Animal shelters are a great place, in fact they should be the only place, for a true animal-lover to bring home an animal from. Thousands of dogs, cats and other animals enter shelters around the world every day. Any of these animals, with discipline, love and affection, can make a great companion, but instead, most of them - in fact as many as 7 million of dogs and cats a year- are put down in shelters each year because there are no homes for them. Meanwhile, there are "dog lovers" and "cat lovers" flocking daily to adopt from breeders who add to the problem of homeless animals by creating more of them.
Animals don't have a voice. They cannot tell us what they want, but this much any reasonable person would have to agree to: they want to live. Do we have to make it so difficult for them?
This prologue was, as the headline of this post tells you, for my Paws Off The Plate! series about shelter animals which I'd neglected for a while there as life caught up with me. I do want to return to it this week with the profiles of two beautiful animals available for adoption at the Washington Humane Society.
I know most of you don't live in the Washington area, but the idea here is to just get you thinking of the wonderful animals you might find in your local shelters, and the many ways you can help them even if you cannot adopt one. Shelters are always in need of donations of cash and goods and also volunteers. So if you cannot bring home an animal, consider giving some time to your local shelter. At the WHS, volunteers walk dogs, show them to prospective adopters, and foster them in their homes, among other things.
Now here are this week's featured sweethearts: Dupont and Princess. How adorable are they?
Princess is a 3 month old Shar-pei mix who was surrendered by her owner because having her was "too much work." The shelter says she is an incredibly sweet girl with an adorable face and super soft fur. She also gets along with other dogs.
Dupont is a handsome 3 year old brown/white Tabby who was abandoned in a cat carrier on a busy Washington street. The shelter says he's a very friendly boy whose favorite thing to do is snuggle up next to his owner and get lots of face rubs and treats. Doesn't that sound like bliss?
You can read more about Princess and Dupont and other beautiful animals available for adoption at http://www.washumane.org/. You can also visit http://www.petfinder.com/ to find animals up for adoption in any part of the country.
Now let's get to today's recipe, which is the easy-to-put-together and utterly delicious Coconut Rice.
I've shared before a recipe of coconut rice which I make with coconut milk, but this one is made in the more traditional Tamil way, with coconut shreds.
I love a bowl of coconut rice with some piping hot rasam on a winter night. Believe me, there is no better food in the world! Especially when it takes only minutes to whip it up.
My Coconut Rice goes to Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons who's hosting Rice Mela through Nov. 31.
1 cup rice, cooked until tender (I do this in a rice cooker)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I buy mine from Whole Foods but those with access to fresh coconut might want to break the coconut meat into pieces and shred it in a food processor.)
1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts
3-4 tbsp cashewnut pieces (optional)
1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds sputter, add the udad dal and chana dal.
Fry the dals until lightly golden. Add the cashewnut pieces and the groundnuts. Fry until they are lightly golden.
Add the curry leaves and green chilies.Stir for a few seconds.
Add the coconut and toast, stirring constantly, until light brown (watch carefully as coconut burns very fast)
Immediately add the rice and salt to taste. Very gently, taking care not to mash the rice, stir the rice and the coconut-dal mixture. Turn off heat.
Garnish with coriander, if desired.
This coconut rice tastes great with some rasam or sambar or even just by itself.
Here's Lucy, caught with her mouth in the cookie box!